Lab members, 2020

Principal Investigator

Kim VanderWaal

  • Ph.D., University of California, Davis

Dr. Kim VanderWaal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota. She is a disease ecologist and epidemiologist who has worked extensively on understanding transmission of pathogens in animal populations. Her research interests relate to the use of network analysis, mathematical modeling, phylogenetic approaches and animal movement data to improve surveillance, prevention, and control of infectious pathogens of agro-ecological systems. She is also studies the causes and consequences of pathogen genetic diversity, with a particular focus on understanding how genetic diversity can be harnessed to track the spread of viruses and how evolution and immunology interact to drive the epidemiology and emergence of viral strains.


Igor Paploski

  • DrPH, Universidade Federal da Bahia

  • MSc, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz

  • DVM, Universidade Federal do Paraná

Igor is interested in epidemiology of infectious diseases, both in humans and animals. He has experience with the epidemiology of human leptospirosis and arboviral circulation in an urban setting of a developing country. His current research projects include 1) the forecast of PRRS/PED occurrence in American swine farms and 2) finding epidemiological patterns of the occurrence of similar co-circulating strains of PRRS in the US.

Igor's Website

Dennis Makau

  • PhD, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

  • MSc, University of Nairobi, Kenya

  • BVetMed, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Dennis's research interests include using molecular tools, applied-epidemiology and One-Health concepts to enhance decision making in addressing threats and challenges in communities. His current research employs statistical & phylodynamic modelling and machine learning techniques to understand the epidemiology of porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome virus (PRRSV), anti-microbial resistance (AMR) in animal populations, and contact networks/animal movements. His research outputs support resilient and sustainable livelihoods through data-driven decisions for strategic interventions and policy development.

J. Trevor Vannatta

  • PhD, Purdue University

  • MSc, University of Minnesota

  • BSc, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

Trevor is a disease, ecosystem, and quantitative ecologist. His research focuses broadly on within-host community ecology and the role of infection in host behavior and physiology. Trevor employs a variety of field, laboratory, and modelling approaches to better understand the transmission and ecological importance of disease across biological scales.

Trevor's website

Graduate Students

Umanga Gunasekera

  • Ph.D. Candidate, Veterinary Medicine

  • M.Sc., Veterinary Public Health, Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany & Chiangmai University, Thailand

  • B.V.Sc., University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Umanga is interested in infectious disease epidemiology. Her current research revolves around characterizing challenges and elucidating the epidemiology of foot-and-mouth disease in endemic settings in Asia, mainly focusing on Vietnam and India. This includes identifying high risk areas and risk factors for the disease using Bayesian spatial temporal models and the spatial temporal changes of the FMD virus with Bayesian phylogenetic data analysis. Her previous work was on utilizing regression analysis and participatory methods to identify the risk factors of foot and mouth Disease in Sri Lanka.

Nakarin 'Son' Pamornchainavakul

  • Ph.D. student, Veterinary Medicine

  • DVM, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Nakarin is interested in pathogen evolution, especially viruses causing infectious disease in livestock. His previous work explored the global macroevolutionary history of Foot-and-Mouth disease virus. Now, he is working on PRRSV transmission dynamics in the U.S. swine industry by integrating bioinformatic and epidemiologic approaches. His current research projects include 1) the estimation of farm-level reproduction numbers for PRRSV using sequence-based transmission tree analysis and 2) investigating PRRSV-host interaction under different immunologic pressures.

Rahul Bhojwani

  • Masters student, Data Science

  • B.Tech in Computer Science, National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, India

As a Graduate Research assistant, Rahul is working on predicting the outbreak of PRRS and PED virus in sow farms. He works with our team to formulate prediction questions as a spatiotemporal network node classification problem where spatial environmental factors and the movements of herds between farms are used to predict outbreaks. Before pursuing his masters, Rahul holds some work experience in the startup industry culture. His area of work includes Deep Learning, Machine Learning, SpatioTemporal Data Mining and Artificial Intelligence. His hobbies include playing badminton, Theatre acting, Beatboxing and riding his motorcycle.

Former Lab Members

Elizabeth Miller

  • Former Post-doc

  • Ph.D. Biology, University of Notre Dame

  • B.A. Biology and Classical Civilizations, Oberlin College

  • Current position: Research associate, University of Minnesota

Liz's research focuses on the epidemiology of bacterial antimicrobial resistance at the wildlife-livestock interface. Her current research projects include 1) using metagenomic sequencing to understand the role anthropogenic sources may play in the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance genes wild raptors and 2) assessing the role giraffe social behavior plays in the acquisition and maintenance of resistant commensal E. coli. Other research interests include animal behavior, the microbiome, and wildlife disease ecology.

Kaushi Kanankege

  • Former Post-doc

  • Ph.D. Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota

  • MSc., University of Wisconsin, Madison

  • Current position: Minnesota Department of Health

Anna Munsey

  • Ph.D. Graduate, 2020

  • Current position:

  • Ph.D. Comparative and Molecular Biosciences, University of Minnesota

  • DVM, University of Madison

  • B.A. Biology, University of Virginia

  • Current position: Post-doc, Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Anna is interested in the epidemiology of infectious diseases of livestock, primarily diseases which disproportionately affect developing countries. Her current research is focused on exploring the epidemiology of foot and mouth disease among cattle in Uganda using regression, machine learning, and phylogenetic methods.

Belinda Befort

  • MSc graduate, University of Minnesota, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, 2019

  • BSc. McGill University, Mathematics and Computer Science

  • Current position: Data Scientist, C.H. Robinson

Where were from...